I’ve referred in the past to something Salieri famously said of Mozart (supposedly) – that he wrote all of his pieces completely in his head, as if he were “taking dictation from God”. I’ve applied it to my impressions of Togashi and Hunter X Hunter, but it fits Kyousougiga like a glove, too. It gives the same impression of a series that depicts a mythology that existed in complete form, staggeringly complex, before the first episode (or chapter) was even written down.
The obvious influences on Kyousougiga are seemingly endless – Alice in Wonderland, Buddhism, the Hachiko story, Gainax (especially FLCL), the Choujuu-giga. And there are just as many metaphors to describe the series itself – I’ve compared to a jigsaw puzzle among other things – but for all it’s parallel narratives, I think structurally speaking it most closely resembles a symphony or concerto in the classic three-movement style. We started out with a frenetic Allegro, as the strangeness of this universe was shown through the eyes of its characters. The middle episodes were the Adagio, where the pasts of the characters were explored in a more reflective style, and the series seemed subsumed with the longing and heartbreak of those characters. Finally we’re now in the Allegro assai – where all of the mistakes of the past have come home to roost, and the very foundations of the universe itself are put to the test.
What strikes me about this episode is that it was full of revelations that were (mostly) unexpected without being surprising – the kind of exposition that makes so much sense you wonder why it didn’t occur to you in the first place. I chalk that up to the solid construction of the mythology itself, which leaves little to chance. Koto as Inari and Lady Koto’s natural daughter is one such revelation – if indeed the truth is that simple. It would certainly explain how she’s fundamentally different from their other “children” and thus able to do the things she does. I don’t know whether Koto was “born” in the normal sense but she seems very much the product of Inari and Bunny-Koto’s union one way or the other – she’s certainly inherited something from each of them.
That’s really just the jumping-off point, though, and where things start to get really complicated. The arrival of the Head Priest (Yao Kazuki, the oddly-dressed seiyuu from travelogue episode 5.5) – the boss of Jinja – is where the trickle of exposition becomes a flood. Lady Koto is “no longer real” and cannot exist outside the Sanctuary, because Koto has inherited her powers. It also seems that Koto has inherited some of Inari’s powers, and he seems to be a physically smaller being as a result. The Head Priest refers to him as “not a person, but an observer” and in this context I take that to mean what we would think of as a God – which dovetails with the Head Priest’s comment that Koto is the result of the union “between a God and a Buddha”.
The essence of the situation seems to be this: Myoue-Inari created Mirror Kyoto because he found the world of Jinja cold and soulless, for all its majesty and power, and wanted something meaningful in his existence. Stories like this about in every mythology, pretty much, and there’s a certain symbolism here for the act of creating a new life. Essentially this new world is the “Thirteenth Parallel” according to Inari’s familiars (who finally get their own childlike human forms – it’s worth noting that seemingly all the familiars, even A and Um, can be compelled to do what Jinja demands of them), and Inari has been keeping it a secret from Jinja – and he hid it so well that no one found it for Centuries, until Koko’s hammer opened the door from the inside. After that happened, all bets were off. Inari did all this for love, in his capricious fashion, but it’s all led to the crisis situation as it exists now – with Mirror Kyoto crumbling fragment by fragment, Yase losing all her memories and the fabric of the entire Universe – the other “parallels” – also under threat.
This is a big, grand mythological epic – but as usually happens, the people inside it went and lived lives and developed feelings of their own. Now Mirror Kyoto exists as a real place, the “children” Inari created (and resurrected) are very real and everyone has a stake in what happens next. So it’s not so simple as the Head Priest makes it out to be in pronouncing that Mirror Kyoto must be erased for “closure”. Koto blames herself for all this – for her mother’s demise, for giving away the secret of Mirror Kyoto’s existence, and for its current state of decay. There’s a truly beautiful image of all the things that Koto blames herself for – all the present and future deaths and all the destruction – existing in a single tear she sheds over what she’s done. But the other Myoue steps in at last and appeals to Koto on harsh but irrefutable grounds – for all her self-pity, Koto’s parents are alive (after a fashion) and right in front of her. Everything Yakushimaru once held dear – including his own life – was snuffed out centuries earlier. Koto can either wallow in her own tears or do what she usually does, wreak havoc with the status quo. And it’s never really a mystery what she’s going to decide to do.
More so than in any anime for quite some time, I feel as if the conclusion of Kyousougiga is going to boil down to what it is that the characters want. For now it’s enough that Koto blackmails the Head Priest into helping find a way to save Mirror Kyoto instead of destroying it, but ultimately that’s in itself just a jumping off point. Kurama wants, presumably, to go “outside”. Yakushimaru wants to die. Yase wants to be with her mother – if she gets her memories back. But what do little Koto and her father want, when all is said and done? They both want to save Mirror Kyoto, and presumably he wants to save Lady Koto if he can. But what then? Does Koto truly consider A and Um family despite their obviously non-human nature, and would she still think of Mirror Kyoto as a home if “her” Myoue were no longer in it? It feels to me as Inari and Koto are going to have to make very difficult choices in the end, because it’s not going to be possible for everyone to have their contradictory wishes granted – certainly not excluding the two of them.